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Let’s start with understanding what the ACL is and its role.

The knee is a “hinge” joint that is held together by four ligaments which also control movement of the knee.  Working together with the Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL), the ACL provides our knee with stability and the ability to function normally. It is a tough band of fibrous tissue that crosses over inside the knee joint connecting the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia) and is in control of the rotational forces that occur during motions like side stepping, pivoting and landing from jumps.).

What are some of the main causes of ACL injuries?

Many ACL injuries or tears occur during sporting activities and fitness regimes whether in professional, community or recreation environments. In particular sports that include “planting” and “pivoting” actions such as soccer, football, basketball, netball, hockey, tennis and skiing place greater pressure on the ACL, and therefore players involved with these sports are at greater risk of injury from ACL tears and strains.

Knowledge can prevent injury

Understanding how the ACL works and the strain placed upon it can help you to prevent injury. The ACL is put under additional strain when you perform the following movements:

  • Suddenly slowing down then changing direction
  • Pivoting with your foot planted
  • Landing incorrectly from a jump
  • Sudden stopping

How do you know if the ACL is damaged?

Symptoms that indicate that you may have damaged your ACL include:

  • Hearing a “popping” sound in the knee at the time of injury
  • Swelling
  • Unable to weight bear on the knee (even though you may not be experiencing much pain)
  • Instability of the knee

ACL injuries are categorised as Grade 1,2, or 3 and the subsequent treatment is determined by the severity of the injury and your individual lifestyle.

Grade 1 injuries are when the ACL has suffered minor damage such as being mildly stretched, but it still able to function and provide stability to the knee.

Grade 2 injuries are uncommon and described as when the ACL has been stretched or partially torn.

Grade 3 injuries are severe and described as when the ACL is torn completely in half and is unable to act in its role of keeping the knee joint stable.

If you have only suffered a minor ACL injury, it’s unlikely that you will require surgery. A number of ACL injuries are able to be properly managed conservatively with treatment designed to reduce swelling and restore range of motion to the knee. Whether you are suitable for conservative, non-surgical management of your ACL injury is determined by the extent of the injury together with an assessment of your day-to-day lifestyle.

If your specialist doctor believes that conservative treatment is the best option, you will be referred to have this treatment performed under the guidance of physiotherapist. A typical guided program for the treatment of an injured ACL will include strength-based activities concentrating on the quadriceps and hamstrings to work in helping to compensate for the deficiency in the ACL.

What is an ACL reconstruction and when is it required?

The need for an ACL reconstruction is often determined by a patient’s lifestyle, in particular for those whose job includes lifting and handling or for athletes (professional and social) who want to return to pivoting sports.

The end goal of ACL reconstruction is to prevent the knee from buckling during pivot activities and restore normal function. During ACL reconstruction your specialist surgeon removes the damaged ligament and replaces it with a graft via a keyhole surgery (arthroscopic procedure).

It’s important to note that ACL reconstruction surgery is one of the most common successful surgical procedures performed worldwide by specialist orthopaedic surgeons and has enabled athletes and everyday patients to continue with their usual lifestyle activities and normal function.

What can I do to prevent an ACL injury?

Even for elite athletes in peak condition, ACL injuries still occur. However being pro-active and adopting new habits into your routine can assist in injury prevention. Try the following:

  • Include a warm-up routine before exercise. This is particularly important in the colder months
  • Stretch and strengthen other muscles for added support to the ACL. Focus on the muscles at the front and back of the thigh (quadriceps and hamstrings)
  • Practice landing with your knees bent after jumping, crouching, pivoting or turning

Get professional advice for injury management

If you damage your ACL, make sure you seek specialist professional advice at the first opportunity. Early action and intervention can mean that your injury will be managed more effectively by the institution of the right treatment plan enabling you to return to normal function and be pain free.

Call us to arrange for a consultation today on 1300 399 223.